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The 20 best cheap eats in Manchester

Dining out on a budget? These are the best cheap eats in Manchester for a wallet-friendly lunch or dinner

Rob Martin
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Rob Martin
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Despite Manchester’s growing reputation as one of the UK’s best cities for fine dining – and its first Michelin star at Mana – sometimes you just want to stuff your face without blowing a load of money on it.

Well, Manchester’s got you covered either way, with as many cheap and cheerful places to eat as there are super-stylish restaurants. From breakfast to brunch, right through to late-night restaurants and the finest curry houses in the land, our pick of the best cheap eats in Manchester will certainly sort you out, and leave you with enough change to leave a more than generous tip.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Manchester

Best cheap eats in Manchester

A family-run business which started in the early 1970s, Lily’s serves some of the finest Indian food in the city and it’s all vegetarian or vegan. Despite the high quality of the dishes and the numerous awards the venue has won over the years, the family has kept prices at a very reasonable level, making the journey out to Ashton to sample their delights well worth it.

Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza
  • Restaurants
  • Pizza

Kate Wilson and Jim Morgan (previously of Honest Crust) know a thing or two about pizza. Starting out with a small place in Ancoats that served stunningly good pizzas for around a fiver, their success has led to several other Rudy's outlets, and they're all great value for the quality of the food. Prepare to wait, but it’s worth it: Rudy's pizza is possibly the city's best.

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This inauspicious-looking takeaway-cum-eat-in cafe on the edge of the Northern Quarter offers a range of around six curries daily as well as wraps, kebabs and sundry delicious delights. The fact that it's 100 percent vegan and the portions are hefty only adds to the impressively bargain-sized prices. 

A US-style diner that’s 100 percent vegan, with burgers, loaded fries, hot dogs, macaroni... you name it, they’ve got it, and it’s delicious enough to make the most ardent meat-eater stop in their tracks. Proof if ever it were needed that you can do superb vegan junk food and not have to spend a fortune on it.

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Shoryu Ramen
  • Restaurants
  • Ramen

This elegant noodle bar is owned by Japan Centre CEO Tak Tokumine, and Manchester secured the first branch outside London in late 2016. The house special is tonkotsu, a slow-cooked pork broth with barbecue pork belly, egg, mushrooms, sesame, ginger and nori seaweed. Extras include fried shallots, caramelised black garlic, kimchi and seafood. The house gyoza and moreish wagyu steak buns are musts, too.

  • Restaurants
  • Ethiopian

Fair enough if your expectations are low when you have to enter a restaurant via a metal staircase in a takeaway. While Ethiopian restaurant Habesha certainly is a little rustic, once you’ve grabbed yourself a bottle of St George (an Ethiopian beer), you’ll soon feel right at home. The richly spiced stews (meat or veg) served on gluten-free injera bread are excellent and a bargain compared to nearby competition. 

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Kabana
  • Restaurants
  • Indian

Eating at Kabana is a euphoric experience. The curries vary on what feels like every visit. The chicken masala and lamb karahi (on or off the bone) are reliable options – the latter is thick and coriander-heavy with a freshness you may not expect from a dish that requires lengthy cooking. The spiced yoghurt-marinated lamb chops are also great.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese

While the atmosphere inside is perfectly acceptable, the ambience has never been the number-one concern here: lighting seems to vary from extremely low level one night to almost blinding the next, and décor is basic. However, the steaming bowls of pho (noodle soups) are unmissable, and incredibly cheap at this family-run business bringing authentic Vietnamese food to the city.

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Pancho’s Burritos
  • Restaurants
  • Mexican

There are two branches of Pancho’s to choose from: one in the Arndale Food Market and one just off Oxford Road, near Manchester Metropolitan University. Whichever you visit, expect gorgeous, brilliant-value Mexican food.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian

When you can't get a table somewhere that you've never heard of because the people who've managed to get in keep going back again and again, it's time to up your eating out game. This is what happened when Bundobust arrived in Manchester and it hasn't let up.

This is the best Indian street food in the city. The menu is entirely vegetarian or vegan and the combo platters are tremendous. There’s a great range of craft ales, too.

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Siam Smiles
  • Restaurants
  • Thai

Love a hidden gem? You don’t get much more off the beaten track than this Thai diner in a Chinatown supermarket. Highlights include a bright purple fish ball stew, eye-wateringly hot papaya salad and black rice pudding, baked to sticky perfection in banana leaves.  

  • Restaurants
  • Indian

Away from the Curry Mile, Manchester offers several decent Indian restaurants, where service is friendly and efficient and where the wine list goes beyond the usual house stuff. Akbar’s is one such place. The slow-cooked lamb nihari is fantastic, and adventurous diners will be delighted by moreish takes on tripe brain and sheep’s trotters. 

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Head out to Prestwich where, among the town’s ever-increasing culinary delights, Ramal offers reasonably priced Lebanese food in an intimate setting. Most mains are chicken, lamb or vegetable-based and, of the many exquisite starters, the fattouch salad is unmissable. You can take your own drinks, making this a cheap meal out even if you go the full three courses.

Sunrise Caribbean Food

Forget the chains doing watered-down Caribbean cuisine: head to this backstreet takeaway instead. You’ll find all the staples here, but the curried goat and fiery jerk chicken (£7.50) are unbeatable (and come with quite possibly the city’s best rice and peas).

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This & That
  • Restaurants
  • Indian

Manchester boasts a few places serving ‘rice and three’ – a hefty portion of rice teamed with no less than three curries on the side. But the original and best is found at This & That, a no-frills café tucked down an unassuming Northern Quarter side street. A veggie meal will set you back just £4.50 but nothing on the menu breaks the bank, making this many a Manc's favourite place to get a good cheap curry.

Vnam
  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese

The dishes at this quaint little Vietnamese are refreshingly light on oil and made with beautiful, locally sourced ingredients. Our top tip? It has the most delicious spring rolls in Manchester, and the beef pho (£7.50) is pure bliss.

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  • Restaurants
  • Delis

You know you’ve reached Barbakan when you catch a whiff of fried onions or spot a queue that snakes down the steps and on to the street. Fortunately, their outdoor sausage sellers (Saturdays only) are efficient and you won’t be waiting long: the bratwurst is a solid favourite and there are around ten chutneys and mustards to choose from (the sauces are self-service – go crazy!).

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Turkish Delight
  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern

The best thing about this kebab shop is that you don’t need to be hammered to enjoy the grub it’s dishing out. While there’s a table-service restaurant hidden at the back, most don’t get further than the takeaway counter at the front. This is where you’ll get value for money: food that’s tastier eaten off your lap or while walking home than it is on a plate with a knife and fork.

Phetpailin
  • Restaurants
  • Thai

There are plenty of Thai and Malaysian restaurants to choose from in Manchester, some headed up by celebrity chefs, others located in swanky million-pound buildings. One that bucks the trend but consistently delivers good food is Thai Phetpailin. The whole steamed sea bass is a treat. 

After more solid recommendations?

The 24 best restaurants in Manchester
  • Restaurants

Over the past few years this city’s food scene has flourished: trailblazing indie restaurants have opened across the city, under-the-radar local favourites have been celebrated by national restaurant critics and world-famous chefs are setting up flashy new ventures.

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